Wednesday, July 05, 2006

KB: Enter the Editor, part 3

Okay, when last we visited our intrepid editor (yours truly), I’d waded through a manuscript full of pitfalls and brought it to a place of honor. Oh, the joy of a job well done. Off the manuscript went to the author, and I waited for the response, anticipating as much pleasure on the author’s side as there now was on mine for this newly refined manuscript.

Yeah, well, as my brother says, it’s nice to want.

The author hit the roof. Long story short, after countless phone calls and emails, I ended up redoing the edit. Twice. On that third pass, I barely touched anything other than misspellings and grammar problems. Of course, I’d gone to my boss to let him know what was happening, and the conclusion was what it’s been at all three publishers where I’ve worked: Bottom line, it’s the author’s book. I handed in the final manuscript with great fear and trembling, certain this one was going to crash and burn. And guess what?

It didn’t. Not by a longshot. Reviewers loved it. Readers couldn’t get enough of it. It charged onto the bestseller list, and sales were so strong we were all astonished.

So was I wrong? Yes and no. Generally speaking, my concerns were valid. (The one criticism reviewers had for the book was that it could have stood “a more careful editing”…Yeah. Thanks.). But bottom line, the author knew best what this story needed, how it needed to be told. Ultimately, I had to respect that. And I’m delighted the book did as well as it did, because it was a powerful story, and the author had other powerful stories to tell. Which wouldn’t have happened if the book had done poorly.

Was this a hard process for the author? You bet. Was it hard for me? So much so that I came perilously close to leaving publishing. So it’s a good thing that God was in control, not the author nor I. Because He did some really wonderful things. Not the least of which was take that devastating process and use it to build a solid bond between this author and me. And when the next manuscript from this author came in, things went far more smoothly. We’d earned each other’s respect and trust, and were both able to give where we needed to do so.

So, when (not if, mind you, but when) you strongly disagree with your editor, let him or her know. But don’t go in guns blazing. Just let her know you don’t agree. If she pushes, don’t get testy. Just stick to your guns. But only, my friends, if it’s a hill to die on. Don’t waste time debating issues that really don’t matter. Voice, vital characterizations, dialogue that’s true to the character, plot points that will destroy the story if they aren’t included…those kinds of things. Editors—good editors, that is—will listen. They may argue, they may even continue to disagree with you, but ultimately, they’ll need to respect that you know this story, these characters, better than anyone else. Because it’s not about being right. It’s about coming alongside the author, working with him or her, and creating a story that will change people’s lives.

Like every other aspect of publishing, it’s about relationship. Building trust and respect together, until the editing process is as enjoyable as the writing process. And that’s not fiction. It really can, and does, happen. More often than you might think.

That’s why I love what I do so much, because my authors have become some of my closest, most trusted friends. People I’ll stand for, and who will stand for me, not just when it comes to writing. So yes, I’m an editor. And a writer.

Nothing else I’d rather be.

Everything you want to know about Karen Ball (and probably way more) can be found at .


At 12:05 PM, Blogger C.J. Darlington said...

This has been very interesting reading, Karen. Thanks for sharing.

At 2:28 PM, Blogger Kristy Dykes said...

Thanks for the insider's look at author/editor relationships.

Inquiring minds want to know. At least this one does. What's an example of something you changed in your first editing? After you read past chapter two and experienced "panic."

(I'm asking this so I can learn.)

Thanks in advance.

At 3:33 PM, Blogger PatriciaW said...

This has been very enlightening.

So Karen, when you are wearing your writer's hat, how has it been to work with your editors? Have you had to concede any changes to move forward?

At 4:32 PM, Blogger Southern-fried Fiction said...

Karen, I really appreciate this advice. I have a plot point in the ms my agent is shopping I'm willing to change if necessary, but another one I'm not as willing. I want to be flexible and easy to work with. But sometimes I'm too easy. I don't want to be so if it's detrimental to my story. I guess in the end, when the story sells, I'll pray my editor and I agree. :o}

At 12:51 AM, Blogger Ernie W. said...

Thank you so much for the wonderful insight of an editor's side of the story. You did a wonderful job in showing how powerful the editor/writer relationship can really become.

At 12:48 PM, Blogger Karen B. said...

Thanks, all, for your encouraging comments. A couple of you asked questions, so I'll do my best to respond...

Kristy, there are all kinds of things that need refining during the edit. The most prevalent is changing from telling to showing. That's probably the #1 bugaboo I see. That, and using effective beats in place of unnecessary speaker attributions.

Patricia, I've been SO blessed in my relationship with my editor, Julee Schwarzburg. She's wonderful and has great instincts. And yes, I've had to make some changes, but they've all been good ones. There have been some things I've disagreed with, and Julee concedes to me on those points. So it's a real give-and-take, which makes the editing process a real delight.

Take care, everyone.



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